Planning for the future is a critical aspect of managing any organisation. The longterm success of a company is closely tied to how well the management can foresee its future and to develop appropriate strategies to deal with likely future scenarios. Additionally, with more staffing firms looking to expand internationally, market size estimates for major staffing markets around the world take on added importance. An accurate figure for the scale of your addressable market is a critically important data point for effective management. A recent report published by Staffing Industry Analysts helps to fill in the blanks.

Published twice annually, SIA’s “Global Staffing Industry Market Estimates and Forecast” report covers estimates and forecasts for the staffing industry by revenue — including regional and historical data and a ranking of the 17 largest countries in terms of staffing industry revenue. Staffing companies can use this report to benchmark their performance against market trends. Furthermore, the market projections available in this report should be useful to potential investors. The full “Global Staffing Industry Market Estimates and Forecast” report is available for SIA corporate and CWS Council members. Per May 2018 report estimates, the global staffing industry generated €409 billion in revenue in 2017 ($461 billion) and grew by 7% from 2016. In calculating our estimates, we split staffing into two main service categories: temporary staffing and place and search (direct hire and retained search). Eighty-nine percent of global revenue was generated via temporary staffing, with the remaining 11% stemming from place and search. The majority of revenue was generated from only three countries (US, Japan, UK) while the bulk of staffing industry revenue is concentrated in a relatively small number of countries. Given the dominant share represented by the largest 17 markets, these countries tend to drive global and regional trends. In the accompanying map, each of these countries is represented by a “bubble” that is proportional to its staffing market size.

Now that we have a clearer understanding of what happened in 2017, what does this mean for 2018? Short of a global economic downturn, the easy answer is pretty much “more of the same.” We are forecasting that global staffing markets will grow by 7% in 2018 and will continue on the same trajectory as 2017. Despite uncertainty in certain markets, the strong secular trends and favourable regulatory changes in others — combined with expanding multi-national contingent workforce programs — signal balanced industry performance worldwide. Staffing markets are continuing to evolve worldwide.

One bright note is that staffing markets are picking up quite markedly in Europe, where we see acceleration in all the main staffing markets apart from the UK, where we expect the uncertainty of Brexit to dampen prospects (we forecast staffing market growth of 2% in UK in 2018 and 2019).

While a generally healthy economic backdrop (IMF projects 3.9% global GDP growth for this year) is one factor driving the robust growth in the staffing market, the regulatory backdrop is important as well. Some countries, such as Germany, have been dealing with a tightening of labour regulations. Others, such as Italy, have benefited from labour reform. Another driver of growth has been that some countries with relatively low penetration rates have room to grow and are primed to do so at a time when there is increasing acceptance of staffing among clients in several markets.

One point of contention is the impact of the increasing lack of available talent, especially in high-skilled professional staffing sectors, on staffing market growth. Are skills shortages a headwind or a tailwind for staffing industry growth? As the imbalance of supply and demand drift further apart, it forges a double-edged sword for staffing firms. On the plus side, buyers/end-users increasingly turn to staffing services in a tight labour market; this is, of course, offset to some degree as it becomes progressively more difficult to source quality talent. The delicate balance between a tight labour market and talent shortage is more apparent in mature staffing markets such as the UK as well as professional sectors such as IT and engineering.


Stay tuned for the next update to our Global Staffing Industry Forecast, due in October, when we will provide our latest thoughts on the industry’s growth prospects along with our revised estimates for 2018 and 2019. Considering the increasingly complex global macroeconomic picture today given Brexit, the Italian political uncertainty and potential trade wars between EU, China and the US, it will be interesting to see how our forecast for 2018 and 2019 changes, if at all.

Using our forecasts to identify and target highgrowth staffing markets is only the first step on the journey to company growth. A company strategy also requires considerable planning, resources and management expertise to be successful. It is equally true that, regardless of what the data say, growth can be found in any market with the right strategy, the right people and the right execution. However, what our forecasts show is that the staffing market in 2018 remains an exciting place to be.